Nathan Barry

Stop and Frisk is defined as the brief, non-intrusive, warrantless stop by police of a suspect who the officer believes the suspect is armed and dangerous (Busby, 2017). These stops are also referred to as Terry stops due to the 1968 Supreme Court Case of Terry V. Ohio. However, in practice, these stops are seldom ever brief or non-intrusive. For example, the state of New York unfairly targeted young black males with their Stop & Frisk program (New York Civil Liberties Union, 2018). There has been much debate between civil rights activists and police organizations regarding when a Stop and Frisk search becomes a violation of our Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches. This debate can be seen in the differing opinions of the Supreme Court cases of Rodriguez V. United States and Utah V. Strieff. Rodriguez V. Unites States determined that a drug sniffing dog being used for the purposes of a Terry stop was unconstitutional (Harvard Law Review, 2017). Utah V. Strieff, however, determined that evidence obtained via a Terry stop coupled with the discovery of an untainted warrant allowed the evidence discovered to be admissible in court (Harvard Law Review, 2015).

The use of Stop and Frisk by the New York Police Department has been a controversial practice since its inception in 2002. The New York Civil Liberties Union has gathered data regarding these stops since 2002 and every year, 80-90% of all stops target Blacks or Latinos between the ages of 14-24 with over 70% being innocent every year (New York Civil Liberties Union, 2018). When this power is abused by officers citizens face unconstitutional surveillance. Supporters of the program, including President Donald Trump, tout the programs propensity to decrease crime and claim that the unbalanced percentage of minorities being stopped accurately reflects the cities crime statistics (Madhani, 2018). Critics of the system claim that it has both failed to reduce crime, and that it gives officers too much flexibility in their searches with the low standard of reasonable suspicion (New York Civil Liberties Union, 2018).


Busby, J. C. (2017, December 24). Stop and frisk. Wex. Retrieved from https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/stop_and_frisk

Madhani, A. (2018, October 08). Trump suggests Chicago police bring back controversial stop-and-frisk searches. USA Today. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/10/08/trump-chicago-stop-and-frisk-stem-gun-violence/1570409002/

Stop-and-frisk data. (2018, July 25). NYCLU. Retrieved from https://www.nyclu.org/en/stop-and-frisk-data

Utah v. Strieff. (2015). Harvard Law Review. Retrieved from https://harvardlawreview.org/2016/11/utah-v-strieff/


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Key Concepts in Surveillance Studies Copyright © 2019 by Nathan Barry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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